and Laura Tirocchi arrived in Providence in 1907 and one or both
may have worked for a time for a popular dressmaker on the citys
fashionable East Side. The Providence City Directory indicates
that by 1911, they had opened a business in the Butler Exchange
on Westminster Street in the heart of downtown Providence.
Butler Exchange was in the center of Providences commercial,
financial, and legal district. The sisters shared the building with
lawyers, doctors, dentists, and other professionals. Wholesalers,
insurance agents, music teachers, the Republican State Committee,
the Rhode Island Womens Christian Temperance Union and the
Rhode Island Sunday School Association were also among the tenants
of that building. In 1913, a firm of patent attorneys and the Crown
Gold Mining & Milling Company of Nova Scotia flanked the Tirocchi
Gown Suite on the fourth floor. The fifth and sixth floors were
given over largely to music teachers.
As self-designated "gown makers," Anna and Laura sought
to distinguish themselves from others who were simply identified
dressmakers. Directly across the street, in the Arcade Building,
twenty-five milliners and five dressmakers had shops. Other dressmakers
and tailors for ladies were scattered throughout the center of the
city. The prime location of the Tirocchi shop and the fact that
they employed as many as twelve girls and women attested to their
early prominence in the trade.
The Butler Exchange must have been a convenient downtown location
for the Tirocchis clientele. With so many music teachers in
the building, the affluent women of Providence may have come to
the building often with their children in tow. The aforementioned
quarters of the Republican State Committeein which a high
number of Tirocchi clients were involved, Temperance Union, and
Sunday School Association would likely have drawn some of them,
too. General business and shopping also drew them downtown.
Anna would have been in her mid-thirties, with twenty years of
experience in her trade, when she opened the downtown shop. Laura
was thirteen years younger than Anna, but had also been trained
in Italy. The sisters were well qualified to operate a high-end
custom dressmaking shop, and their Roman pedigree lent them a certain
European chic that their American competitors couldnt claim.
About 50% of the sisters business involved the traditional
work of a dressmakeraltering, making over, repairing, cleaning,
and pressing garments for their clients. The remaining 50% came
from making gowns using fabric and ideas provided by the client
or inspired by French fashion. Anna also designed original gowns
for her clients and found this custom work the most satisfying.
In these early years, the Tirocchis built a loyal following among
Providence women who could afford their services.
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